Cheng Haixia is a second class petty officer aboard the CNS Liaoning. He is also morale officer, so in his free time, the 40-year-old veteran regularly checks the ship's internal message board to help solve the problems new recruits often experience.
"It's a great honor to serve on China's first aircraft carrier, and I would do it even if they didn't pay me. Not everyone feels the same way, of course, so it's up to me to help them," he said.
Last year, his wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and although her surgery was successful, she will be on medication for the rest of her life. However, Cheng rarely mentioned his family's ordeal to his shipmates.
"Everyone has sacrificed something to be part of this ship. We wish we could be there for our families, but we have our duties to perform," he said.
Jiang Xueyou, another second class petty officer, echoed Cheng's sentiments. "It's always hard to balance loyalty and filial piety," said the 38-year-old, whose mother died in 2010 while he was away working on the carrier's flight navigation system.
The parents of at least six other senior officers have died since 2009.
The mother of Second Class Petty Officer Wang Wei died earlier this year, while he was away at sea. The 39-year old said he was heartbroken, but he has no regrets.
"I have been in the navy for more than 20 years and have seen it grow from nothing into a formidable global force," he said. "The navy has not only provided for my family, but also made me a proud man. Serving on the Liaoning allows me to be a part of naval history. "
The officers have to put their families to the backs of their minds when duty calls, but they praised the support they have been given by wives, husbands and parents.
Zhang Naigang, also a second class petty officer, is in charge of the system that launches and directs the carrier's planes. On Nov 23, 2012, two months after the Liaoning was officially handed over to the PLA Navy, the 40-year-old pressed the button that launched the first J-15 fighter jet from the carrier.
"What an honor!" he said. "It felt like launching the Shenzhou spaceship."
Military security meant Zhang was unable to tell his parents and relatives about his work. He praised his wife for her unstinting support and for being the mainstay of the family.
"Half of my medals should go to my wife," he said. "I owe my family so much."